Midnight sounds can turn terrifying


“…When he’s out in the yard, he’ll see your mother’s blackberry bushes. Seeing the blackberries will remind him of her jam. He’ll probably ask you for some. And chances are, if you give him the jam, he’ll want a muffin to go with it.” —“If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” Laura Joffe Numeroff

There are good ways to wake up and there are bad ways. Unidentifiable sounds at 2:30 a.m. are bad ways. Not hold-your-breath-why-isn’t-the-dog-growling creaks, but more of a something-is-breaking-down tap.

It was a warm night, enough to have traded open windows for the air conditioner. The sheets had since been knocked away with the blanket, the still air doing its job quite well without their help.

I closed my eyes to try to trace the direction of the tapping, realizing how quiet the house was. Why wasn’t the a/c running? I rolled out of bed and headed down the stairs, assuming I would track the sound to the air conditioner.

On the main floor, I stopped to listen again. Nothing. The banister wobbled in my hand as I grabbed it. Loose. That’s just great, my stair railing is going to fall apart.

Half way up, the refrigerator motor kicked on. That seems louder than normal, I thought. How old is that thing now? It’s got to be on its last good leg.

Catching a glimpse of the backyard light through the window shade, I remembered that the front porch light bulb had burned out the other day. At least I hope it was just the bulb. Could it be the wiring? I should have that checked.

My cat, who had heard me get up and most likely assumed it was time to eat, met me in the hallway. She hopped up behind me when I laid back down, and settled into a ball at my feet. Watching her curl up reminded me it was time for another dose of Frontline, which naturally led to the thought of an imminent flea infestation.

The tapping started again and both of our heads popped up. We looked at each other, then to the hallway. Before getting up again, I turned to my clock: 3:08 a.m. I trekked downstairs again, more positive with each step that I would be facing a fried air conditioner at any time. Immediately after, in no particular order, would surely be a refrigerator full of spoiled food and a full blown flea invasion.

Welcome to the middle of the night. Where the size of every worry triples. This is why sleep is intended for these hours. If thoughts of summer insects or the obscure chance of a wiring problem creep into your head, they will grow to plague and impending doom levels between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.

My only solace, outside of the occasional Tylenol PM, is being a morning person. Daylight cures most doomsday thoughts. Sight and smell take over for hearing and the purpose of programmable coffee makers becomes evident again.

On this particular morning, my next look at the clock came at 5:30 a.m. Not quite ready to get up, I fell back onto my pillow and heard my dog Libby shift around on the floor. A minute later, she settled in with a sigh.

Then, tap..tap..tap. I slowly peered over the bed and watched her breathing. Inhale….tap. Inhale…tap. I don’t know which part of her body was capable of that sound—teeth, lips, tongue? Whatever it was that had sounded an awful lot like a costly deteriorating piece of equipment in the dark, now sounded like a sleeping dog in the light.

After this night I’m sure there is a valid reason—other than the obvious annoyance of it—to not read the same book over and over to my daughter before bed. My nighttime train of thought morphed into some tainted adult version of “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.”

If you give an insomniac a creak, she’ll create a catastrophe to go with it.


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